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You know that spring is here when you get up one morning and there's that special spring scent in the air. It's not the crispness that bounces off of a person who has walked in from the winter cold, nor is it the dampness we inhale from the leaves and earth in the fall, and neither is it the heat that you can literally smell in the summer. It's that special spring aroma.
We associate scents with a lot of different things. But can you imagine someone telling you that there's such a thing as a "Jewish scent"?
It's not unusual for us to expect to "see" signs of a home being Jewish -- starting with a mezuza on the front door (and hopefully on all of the required doors therein) and from there to Jewish artwork, Jewish objects and Jewish books.
But how many of us ever considered it important for a Jewish home to "smell" Jewish? Yet, many of us do associate certain scents and aromas with Jewish holidays or observances!
Who can resist the urge to smell the etrog-citron when blessing the lulav and etrog on the Sukkot holiday?
The Rosh Hashana aromas of brisket and tzimmes, challa and gefilte fish help us fondly recall previous family gatherings of years gone by to welcome the New Year.
Chanuka brings with it the scent of frying potato latkes or donuts and burning wicks in the Chanuka menora.
And in the weeks preceding the holiday of Passover, as soon as the first person notices that "spring is in the air," many Jewish homes are filled with the smells of Lysol and Windex, ammonia and bleach.
These scents, of course, are just a prelude of the much more enticing fragrances to come: the sweet charoset; the charred, roasted bone; wine in abundance; crispy matza; soup; gefilte fish; fruit compote.
Judaism teaches, "Which sense does the soul enjoy but not the body? This is the sense of smell." In other words, smell is spiritual.
Thus, we attempt to revive a person who has fainted with smelling salts, because scent reaches the essence of the soul, which is never unconscious. The soul, which is revitalized by the scent, then infuses new life into the body. At the Havdala ceremony performed after Shabbat has ended, we make a blessing on aromatic spices, and then smell them, to refresh our souls which are saddened by the loss of the special Shabbat dimension.
Whereas other senses convey only a partial impression of that which the sense perceives, the sense of smell symbolizes the ability to reach to the essence of all things.
It's not surprising, then, that when we really want to get to the bottom of a particular matter, we speak in terms of "sniffing around" or "smelling" the situation out. The sense of smell is truly, very deep.
This year, with the approach of Passover, let's fill our homes with Jewish scents. As they reach to the essence of our souls, they will make more and more sense!
In the beginning of this week's portion, Tazria, the Torah states: "If a woman conceived seed, and bore a male child."
According to one commentary, this verse alludes to the Jewish people and their Final Redemption with Moshiach.
"A woman" is symbolic of the Jewish people; "conceived seed" alludes to the Jews' service of mitzvot (commandments) and good deeds; "and bore a male child" refers to the ultimate result of this process - the birth of the Messianic Era.
The Final Redemption is referred to as "male" as an expression of its strength, for after Moshiach redeems the world there will be no possibility of further exiles, and the Messianic age will last forever.
This same concept is expressed in a Midrashic reference to the tenth and final song that will be sung by the Jewish people with Moshiach. The tenth song is called "shir," the masculine form, whereas the nine songs that have already been sung are termed "shira," the feminine form.
In order to understand why the Jewish nation is symbolically a woman we need to examine the Hebrew word for woman.
Eve was called "isha" ("woman") "because out of man ('Ish') was this one taken." The word "isha" therefore expresses the woman's relationship with her husband, and reflects her innate desire to reunite with him.
Similarly, in the spiritual sense, G-d is "male," whereas the Jewish people is "female." Just as Eve was created from Adam, so too is every Jew's soul "taken" from within G-d himself, being a "veritable piece of G-d Above."
Accordingly, every Jew's innate desire is to reunite with G-d, the source of his being. Material wealth and physical pleasures can never satisfy the Jew's longing for G-d; neither can spiritual delights totally satiate this yearning. Consciously or not, throughout his life the Jew seeks this union with G-d; it is the driving force of his existence.
To continue the metaphor of the "seed," this innate desire to unite with G-d must be sown precisely in the ground, finding expression in practical mitzva observance.
A seed planted in the air will never sprout; good intentions and positive feelings toward Judaism alone will never yield the desired results. Only through actual Torah study and the observance of mitzvot does the Jew cultivate the "seed" and allow it to grow.
Of course, the underlying objective of the Jew's service in the world is its ultimate "germination" - the Messianic Era.
Translating one's positive feelings into action - doing one more mitzva, performing one more good deed for a fellow Jew - is what will bring the revelation of Moshiach and the redemption of the entire world.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 1
In the winter of 2003, Rabbi Avrohom Hershkop of Kiryat Malachi, Israel, and a group of Chabad Chassidim, as well as a distinguished delegation from Kiryat Malachi, decided to visit the gravesites of the Chabad Rebbes in Ukraine and Russia. They excitedly made their preparations for the trip, both material and spiritual.
A few days before the trip, a chasid from Kiryat Gat, whom we will call David, asked Rabbi Hershkop to mention his name and his mother's name at the holy gravesites. Rabbi Hershkop was happy to oblige and asked, "Do you want me to ask for anything in particular for you?"
David's face seemed to go dim and he thought for a few seconds and then candidly said, "Actually, yes. I am in a very difficult financial situation. I'm about to go bankrupt. I need a great deal of mercy and help."
Said Rabbi Hershkop, "That is serious. Sit down and write four letters for the four Rebbeim's gravesites that we will be going to and ask for a blessing. I promise you that I will place the notes on each of the graves."
Due to the brief amount of time remaining before the flight, the man did not have a chance to prepare the notes and he asked that his name be mentioned in any case. "Many people asked me to mention them," said Rabbi Hershkop, "and I will do my best to say yours."
The group flew off. As this was the winter, heavy snow blanketed the Ukraine. The plan was to go to the graves of Rabbi Shneur Zalman in Haditch, Rabbi Dovber his son in Niezhin, and the graves of the Baal Shem Tov in Mezhibuzh, the Maggid of Mezritch in Anipoli, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchok in Berditchev.
Although he had many names with him to mention, when he got to the gravesite of the Baal Shem Tov, the first name that came to his mind was the name of David from Kiryat Gat. Sharing the man's pain, he mentioned him and his financial woes.
This repeated itself at each of the other holy graves, in Haditch, Niezhin, and Anipoli. Rabbi Hershkop himself was surprised by how David's name always came to mind first when he had names of people closer to him to mention, whose plights he knew of personally.
It was well past midnight when the group arrived in Haditch to visit the grave of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. How awesome is this place, thought each person as he went to the resting place of the author of Tanya and Shulchan Aruch.
After a lengthy prayer session with singing the songs of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the members of the group were ready to leave. They climbed the hill to the bus that waited for them. Suddenly, two policemen boarded the bus and told the driver to wait up, because the roads had turned into a sheet of ice and it was too dangerous to travel. Having no choice, the group tarried there for some more hours even though the time for their flight was approaching.
During the wait, an unfamiliar person boarded the bus. He looked like a chassid but was not part of their group.
"Do you know a David..." he asked, saying a name.
"The person you are asking about, where is he from?" asked Rabbi Hershkop.
"From Kiryat Gat."
Rabbi Hershkop was dumbstruck. Just that week he had spoken to him and promised to mention his name at the gravesites. It was the same man!
"I know him," said Rabbi Hershkop after he had recovered somewhat.
"Then please do me a favor," said the man. "I have something to give him. Would you be sure to give it to him?"
Rabbi Hershkop was happy to say yes and the man took out four envelopes which he gave him. "In each envelope are $1000," said the man. "Please take good care of it."
Rabbi Hershkop, who thought this man knew David from Kiryat Gat, took the opportunity to tell him about his friend's plight and told him he was about to go bankrupt.
"If you can help him, please give him more than this," Rabbi Hershkop dared to ask on the man's behalf.
The man thought it over briefly and without saying anything further, he took out more money and ended up giving him a total of $10,000.
"Please tell him that when he is able, he should return the money to me."
"Would you tell me your name? Perhaps he doesn't know it ..." said Rabbi Hershkop.
"It doesn't make a difference," said the man. And he got off the bus and disappeared.
The plane landed in Israel and the group dispersed to their homes in Kiryat Malachi. Rabbi Hershkop couldn't restrain himself and while still on the road he called David in Kiryat Gat and asked him whether he had a friend or acquaintance in Haditch.
"No," he said. "I don't know anyone there."
"Did anyone from there have to give you something?"
"I don't know of anyone who has to give me an envelope or package of any kind. What are you talking about?" asked David.
Rabbi Hershkop didn't give up. "Does anyone owe you money?"
David burst into tears. "I wish!"
Rabbi Hershkop was quite puzzled at this point and he told David what happened. The mystery only grew greater.
A few hours later, David from Kiryat Gat arrived and he and Rabbi Hershkop sat down to discuss it. Rabbi Hershkop described the man in Haditch but David knew nobody that fit the description.
"It seems the Rebbes are the ones who sent you the money," said Rabbi Hershkop. "And the money they sent you was divided into five envelopes, one from the Baal Shem Tov, the second from the Maggid, the third from Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the fourth from Rabbi Dovber, and even Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev sent you an envelope."
Rabbi Hershkop noted, "We were supposed to leave Haditch at ten in the morning for the airport in Kiev. Thanks to the policemen delaying us, that man found us and brought the envelopes with money."
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
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Pearls for the Shabbos Table
A collection of thoughts on the Torah portions and Jewish Festivals, Pearls for the Shabbos Table will stir the minds of those wtih whom these thoughts are shared. Its easy-to-read style is designed to be accessible to children, while its powerful messages can facilitate deeper discussion amongst adults. Adapted by Rabbi Y.Y. Alperowitz from the Rebbe's teachings. Kehot Publication Society
Continued from previous issue, a letter that was written to Irving Stone o.b.m. of the Jacob Saperstein Foundation as well as a subsequent letter
The above may seem a lengthy preface to my answer to your letter, but not too lengthy considering the vital import of the subject.
If you have in mind some kind of agency or program involving contingent investigative or coordinative functions -then I have already expressed my view on it above. I rather hope, however, that you would consider, instead, beginning at once with direct allocations to Torah-true institutions of Chinuch [Jewish education] organizations which meet the qualifications you have set before you. I would also suggest, moreover, that in the next few years at any rate, some funds from the capital should augment the distribution from the income.
If the latter part of the suggestion still calls forth some hesitation, let me allay all such misgivings by the oft repeated assurance of our Sages that Tzedoko [charity] is analogous to a well, which replenishes itself. Drawing water from such a well does not de-crease the supply, while depriving oneself of the needed quantity does not increase it. Even more illuminating is the analogy from the use of the mind, especially in regard to knowledge and wisdom of the Torah. The teacher who teaches Torah, the more de-manding the students and the more he teaches, the more he learns and the more he deepens his own knowledge. There is no need to elaborate on this to you.
I trust you will accept my suggestions even if, at first glance, they do not appear overly businesslike. From what I have heard of you and know you, you are more concerned with persons and values than with hard business, and this is what we are concerned here with - living persons and the eternal values of Toras Chaim [Torah of Life] and Toras Emes [Torah of Truth], which must be brought together, in order to save them and their future generations.
May G d guide you in making the right decisions, and the Zechus Horabim [merit of the community] will be with you to do the right thing and to set a shining example to others, and to carry out your responsibilities - with the fullest cooperation and encouragement of your wife - in good health and with gladness of heart.
With esteem and blessing,
13th of Cheshvan, 5734 
With further reference to our correspondence, I wish to emphasize here another point about the urgency and speed that should propel every activity for the strengthening of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, and Torah Chinuch in particular.
In normal times, steady, albeit slow, progress might be satisfactory, and sometimes steady progress and speed may not even be compatible. However, we live in "abnormal" times, when things move with whirlwind speed, and we must not lag behind the times in our method of tackling problems in the vital area of Torah and Chinuch. Indeed, in light of the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that a person must learn from everything around him how better to fulfill his purpose in life, especially in fundamental matters, the present jet age and supersonic speed should inspire the idea of time-saving in the spiritual realm. A distance that not so very long ago took days and weeks to cover, can now be spanned in a matter of hours, and a message that took as long to communicate can now be transmitted instantly. If this could be accomplished in the physical and material world, surely the same should be true in the spiritual realm, whether in the area of personal achievement, or in the area of effecting a change in the environment. To be satisfied with less in the realm of the spirit would be like arguing to return to the era of the horse and buggy on the ground that this was satisfactory in olden days, all the more so since spiritual matters have never been subject to the limitations of time and space.
If anyone may entertain any doubt about his ability to meet a challenge which Divine Providence has thrown into his lap, suffice it to remember that G d does not act despotically or capriciously, and most certainly provides the necessary capacity to meet the challenge, and to do so joyously, which is the way of all Divine service, as it is written, "Serve G d with joy," and which, incidentally, is a basic tenet of the Chasidic approach to all matters.
With all good wishes, and with blessing,
To emphasize the unity between the Jewish people, the Rebbe suggested that everyone resolve to add a small, recurring mitzva specifically in honor of the Hakhel year: Adding one deed is something anyone can do. Study a part of the weekly Torah portion, give charity daily (except on Shabbat and Jewish holidays when it is forbidden to handle money). Giving in multiples of ten symbolizes the ten types of Jews in Hakhel.
(7 Adar, 5741-1981)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is unique as reflected by the fact that three Torah scrolls are taken out for the Torah reading; we read the weekly Torah portion of Tazria from one scroll, the Rosh Chodesh reading from another scroll, and the special Parshat HaChodesh reading from a third scroll.
The Rebbe spoke about this phenomenon when the exact same situation occurred. At that time he explained that this is a very rare phenomenon. There are many occasions when two Torah scrolls are taken out, but taking out three scrolls is extremely uncommon.
The lesson to be learned from taking out a Torah scroll is reflected in the prayers recited at that time which begin, "Whenever the ark set out, Moshe would say, 'Arise, O G-d, and Your enemies will be dispersed; Your foes will flee before You.'"
This verse is relevant to every Jew, even in the present era when the ark is entombed. Every Jew possesses a spark of Moshe within his soul. This spark brings about a increase in the service of holiness and the nullification of undesirable influences. Thus, taking out the Torah scrolls reflects both the services of "turn away from evil" and "do good," the two prongs of our service of G-d, and endows that service with new strength and vigor.
Thus, taking out three Torah scrolls represents a chazaka - a strengthening and reinforcement of the above concepts.
In particular, there are two types of chazakot: a chazaka that is necessary to maintain our everyday service of G-d. This is brought about by taking out three Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah; a chazaka that is intended to endow the Jewish people with new and additional powers. This comes about only at special times among them our present circumstances.
May the chazaka established by taking out three Torah scrolls lead to our service in the Third Holy Temple, where "we will partake of the Passover sacrifices and the festive offerings... and give thanks to You with a new song for our Redemption and for the deliverance of our souls."
The Month of Nisan
The future redemption will burst forth from the midst of darkness. At the very moment when every heart trembles at the point of despair, the glory of G-d will shine forth. And when will that moment be? In the month of Nissan, for G-d has appointed it as a time of redemption. Every misfortune which befalls Israel during this month is nothing else but an assurance that the deliverance is about to begin. When G-d chose the Jewish people as His nation He established for them a month of redemption, a month in which the Jewish people would be redeemed from Egypt, a month in which they are destined to be redeemed in the future."
(The Book of Our Heritage)
When a woman conceives (tazria)... (Lev. 12:2)
The Hebrew word "tazria" derives from the root "zeria," which means "sowing." Two aspects are present in sowing: Sowing is not a one-time affair, but continues to exert an effect even afterwards, similar to seeds which when sown in the ground lead to growth; The purpose of sowing is to harvest produce of a much greater amount than that sown. The lesson from this is that all aspects of man's service should be in the manner of "sowing": A Jew may not remain content with a one-time effort, but instead, that effort should produce growth. Moreover, the growth produced should be in a large amount. In the words of Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch: A Jew should be a "light to illuminate," giving light to other Jews, and in such a way that they in turn become "lights to illuminate," ad infinitum - similar to sowing seeds, which produce fruit which contain seeds, which in turn produce fruit, ad infinitum.
(Sichot Kodesh, 5744)
And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised (Lev. 12:3)
What does the mitzva (commandment) of brit mila - circumcision - emphasize? Brit mila draws attention to the fact that G-d did not create man in a perfect state from the womb. Just as perfection of man's physical form is by man's own hand, so is it within his means and power to complete his spiritual form by the worthiness of his actions. We learn from this mitzva that through our actions we have the opportunity to perfect ourselves and the entire world both physically and spiritually.
When Dov Ber (later to be known as The Maggid of Mezritch) was a small child of five around the turn of the 18th century, his parents' home was consumed by fire. The child was upset by his mother's display of grief and he asked her: "Mother, is it right to grieve so much for the loss of our house?" "G-d forbid," she replied, "I am not grieving because of the loss of the house, but over the loss of the document of our family tree burnt in the fire. That document traced our descent to Rabbi Yochanan Hasandler who was a direct descendant of King David."
"If so," replied the child, "I shall start for you a new dynasty." In his 70-odd years of service in this world, Dov Ber fulfilled the promise he made to his mother, becoming a remarkable Torah scholar and later assuming from the Baal Shem Tov the mantle of leadership of the growing Chasidic Movement
Like many of the Baal Shem Tov's 60 outstanding disciples Rabbi Dov Ber was won over to his master's seemingly controversial teachings in a profound and uniquely personal way. Once Rabbi Mendel of Bar, a leading disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, was staying next door to Rabbi Dov Ber. He happened to overhear the teachings of the "Maggid" and was fascinated by the explanations he heard. Stepping in to meet the teacher, he was shocked by the sickly appearance of the man. "Don't you know that there is a Baal Shem Tov? Go to him and he will cure you!" said Rabbi Mendel. The Maggid replied curtly with a quote from the Psalms, "It is better to take refuge in G-d than to trust in man!"
When Rabbi Mendel returned to Medzibozh he praised the Maggid but the Baal Shem Tov replied that he was already aware of him, and in fact, greatly desired that the Maggid come to him.
Over the course of the next few years the Maggid vacillated in his desire to meet with the Baal Shem Tov, but finally decided to travel to Medzibozh. Upon his arrival he expected to hear profound and wondrous expositions on the Torah, but instead the Baal Shem Tov regaled him with seemingly meaningless stories about coachmen and horses and similar themes. These stories were parables alluding to abstruse topics in Torah. Dov Ber was put off and decided to leave at once.
Just as he was about to leave, the Baal Shem Tov sent for him and questioned him, saying: "Are you well versed in Torah study?" Having received a positive answer, he continued, "Yes, I know that you are a scholar. Do you also know Kabbala?" The Maggid replied that he did. With that the Baal Shem Tov questioned him on a passage, asking him to explicate it. When the Maggid presented his interpretation the Baal Shem Tov told him, "You don't understand it at all!" The Maggid reviewed the passage once more, and with assurance replied that it was certainly correct, and if not, he would like to hear a better explanation.
To that the Baal Shem Tov said: "Rise and stand!" As the Maggid gazed around him, the Baal Shem Tov interpreted the passage which referred to various angels. As he spoke the house was ablaze with light and the angels described in the passage were actually visible.
Over the course of perhaps two extended visits in Medzibozh the Maggid was able to absorb all the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and take his place as the foremost disciple of the master.
In the tempestuous years following, the two spiritual geniuses were bound together in an extraordinary relationship of master and disciple. In the year 1760 when the Baal Shem Tov passed away, the Chasidic Movement was at a crucial juncture, requiring strong, dynamic leadership. The matter of succession was in question, as the Baal Shem Tov had left no specific instructions for his followers. In a move of respect and honor for the Baal Shem Tov, his only son Rabbi Tzvi was appointed interim leader. He served in that capacity for one year.
The disciples had gathered for the first anniversary of passing of the Baal Shem Tov and were seated around a table with Rabbi Tzvi at their head. He had just concluded his Torah discourse when he rose and said: "Today my father appeared to me and informed me that the Shechina and Heavenly Assembly that used to be with him 'have gone over this day to Rabbi Dov Ber; therefore my son, transfer to him the leadership in the presence of the Chevraya Kadisha (Holy Society). Let him sit in my place at the head of the table and you, my son, sit in his place.'" When he finished speaking he removed the white robe symbolizing his office and placed it upon the shoulders of Rabbi Dov Ber.
Thus, leadership passed to the Maggid. In a short time he was able consolidate his leadership, and although some of the older chasidim did not become his disciples, he was ultimately recognized as the official successor and spokesman for the entire Chasidic Movement.
It is known that the Messianic era, especially the period after the resurrection of the dead, is indeed the ultimate purpose and the fulfillment of this world. It is for this purpose that this world was originally created. A glimmer of this revelation which will take place in the future has already been experienced - at the time of the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. as it is written: "You (G-d) revealed Yourself, that we may know that G-d is the Lrd; there is nothing else besides Him." "You actually 'revealed Yourself'" (literally: "made Yourself seen"), indicating that the revelation was in a manner perceptible to physical sight.
(Tanya, ch. 36)